There are a lot of things that can slow down your web browser. Maybe you share a connection and someone else in the house is downloading something. Maybe you’re the one doing the downloading. Even running a processor-heavy program at the same time can take CPU cycles away from rendering a web page. Having a lot of tabs or windows open can also have an effect. But those are all things you can control, for the most part. One of the hidden causes of a slow web browser is the number of widgets and social media addons many websites use. These can be the pop-up that offers to “connect” your Facebook profile with whatever website you’re looking at. Some blogs use tracking services to see where you came from, or what search query you used to find the blog. Usually you’re stuck with these, since you can’t turn off something on another website. However, with Ghostery, an addon for Firefox and Google Chrome, you can.
Of all the browser addons I install, Ghostery (along with Adblock Plus), is one of the most beneficial for my happiness while browsing the Web. Adblock Plus takes care of ads (obviously), while Ghostery takes care of, well, let’s the Ghostery developer describe it:
“Ghostery sees the invisible web – tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons. Ghostery tracks the trackers and gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity.”
Now, it’s nice to know how the websites you visit are tracking you. If you wanted, you could send a nasty email, or simply stop visiting the website until they stop trying to capture your browsing habits. Or, you could use Ghostery to simply block them.
It’s pretty amazing. I won’t name any websites, but I’ve visited plenty of websites where the page seems to take ages to load. It’s not as if my Internet connection is slow, and I’m not squeezing bandwidth away from browsing by downloading, so the “fault” lies with the website I’m visiting. It’s these “tags, web pugs, pixels and beacons,” as the Ghostery blurb says. With Ghostery installed, however, the slowdown is a thing of the past, because Ghostery stops all those things in their tracks.
Setting up Ghostery is pretty simple. Once it’s installed, simply go through the preferences or setup wizard and make your choices. If you want to get a little pop-up bubble that identifies what’s slowing you down, you can. You can position the bubble in any corner of your website, as well as modify how long the bubble stays visible. You also can show a status bar that shows a count of the different web trackers Ghostery finds (this is a Firefox-only option).
As mentioned, Ghostery offers blocking. The current “bug” list currently has 275 different sites that track your web browsing, and you can block all of them, none of them, or choose which ones should be blocked individually. Scanning each website you visit can be a bit time consuming (and could potentially slow down your browsing), so Ghostery offers a “lite” mode. In this mode, Ghostery scans for fewer web bugs, but it does speed up Ghostery.
There’s not much more too Ghostery. You install it, get it set up the way you want, and continue browsing. I’ve had instances where part of a website I’m used to seeing when I visit seems to be missing, so in those instances I have the option of telling Ghostery to allow that element. Or not. And that’s the best part of Ghostery. All these web bugs and tracking elements take away my right to share or hide my web habits; Ghostery gives it back.